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I think that is a wholly positive act. Durham Colleges according to your personality type. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Do you think the destruction we act out on the environment is reflective of how we feel?

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To ask other readers questions about On Extinction , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. I was really disappointed by this book.

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From the synopsis on the cover I was expecting to read about how, as a species, we have separated ourselves from nature, the repercussions of this on the natural world and how we can find our way back to living with nature rather than against. Instead I got to read about how modern civilisation has caused the 'extinction' of more traditional ways of life of local peoples the world over with only little nods to the damage we have done to the planet itself. Granted I expected some insight into how past civilisations managed a more coherent approach to the natural world and how this has been lost but I did not expect that to be the main focus of the book.

I'm sure there are many readers that would find this interesting and on one level I did and if this had been described better within the synopsis I may have enjoyed the book more. On a more positive note Challenger does have a fluid and poetic style of writing that brings the subject matter to life and those occasions where she did detail the impacts on the natural environment resulting from our actions were superb and obviously well researched. I did find the lack of illustration explanations a little irritating as I had to keep turning to the illustration list at the front of the book, which did interrupt the flow a little but this more of a personal thing and may not irritate other readers.

Overall not a bad read with the biggest annoyance being the lack of cohesion between the book cover and synopsis and the actual content. Jul 24, Kathryn rated it really liked it. I thought this book was awesome I imagined it would be so much better but it was still good. Hard to review because I read to make myself have a better general knowledge of time passing through the technology and how things change and old ways become something that people just talk about.

It was nice to consider that these things may not be passed down but we can certainly read about them in a book.

Melanie Challenger on Extinction: How We Became Estranged From Nature

A great read for an ageing environmentalist and someone who cares about the future. Aug 02, Diogenes rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites.

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What a wonderful, morbidly beautiful work of memoiristic philosophy sprinkled thoroughly with history, earth sciences, etymology, poetics and literary leanings, psychology, and the nature of humanity at its most base levels. Challenger meanders through fen and tundra, gardens and graveyards in sought-after isolation, inhaling the incense of energized melancholy, utilizing a voice that reads like something diaphanous, but is laden with sea-deep thoughts, ruminating on ruination, an entrancing wal What a wonderful, morbidly beautiful work of memoiristic philosophy sprinkled thoroughly with history, earth sciences, etymology, poetics and literary leanings, psychology, and the nature of humanity at its most base levels.

Challenger meanders through fen and tundra, gardens and graveyards in sought-after isolation, inhaling the incense of energized melancholy, utilizing a voice that reads like something diaphanous, but is laden with sea-deep thoughts, ruminating on ruination, an entrancing walkabout through layers of what the concept of extinction actually means , from crumbling castles to melting ice caps, of cultures and species vanished from the world, of languages lost and words forgotten, all threaded through with that time-worn mantra of "nothing is permanent except impermanence.

Challenger, to me, is a new-wave transcendentalist, with British gravitas, armed with druidic wisdom, academic respect, simple awe, and humanistic empathy. Her writing style is soothing, taking the reader by the hand and leading us along her journey of discovery, as if sharing secret thoughts to a close friend. I would greatly enjoy a conversation over coffee with her, if ever the Fates allowed it.

Mar 25, Rose rated it liked it. If you've ever been frustrated by news about the breakneck pace at which wildlife habitats are being destroyed, you will want to read poet Melanie Challenger's On Extinction, a meditation on humanity's appetite for destruction. Challenger's book resonates nicely with W. Sebald's Austerlitz; she devotes a paragraph to him as part of her discussion of Futurism and its unabashed delight in the "beauty" of war.

As Challenger interacts with a variety of landscapes and travels to some remote locales If you've ever been frustrated by news about the breakneck pace at which wildlife habitats are being destroyed, you will want to read poet Melanie Challenger's On Extinction, a meditation on humanity's appetite for destruction. As Challenger interacts with a variety of landscapes and travels to some remote locales, she asks questions about what it means to be human and what our relation to nature is or should be, questions that all of us need to be asking ourselves if wildlife is to survive.

Particularly interesting is her discussion of the notion -- prominent in the 19th century -- that humans who are highly adapted to a particular landscape, i. Challenger experiences a deep nostalgia for earlier times, when people quite naturally knew things like the names of wildflowers and birds, and existed in more harmony with the landscape.

On Extinction

Perhaps the most challenging of all the accomplishments of this book is that she manages to end it on a hopeful note. I didn't love this book at first. Actually, I didn't think I was going to make it through the first chapter. Maybe that's because I wasn't entirely sure what the premise was going to be. Anyway, the first chapter was really boring but I'm glad I continued to read. Once I started to figure it out and get into the flow, all my doubts vanished.

On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature by Melanie Challenger

Not only is this book beautifully written but the author has an amazing capability to take you from one thought to another and then through a tangent, all wi I didn't love this book at first. Not only is this book beautifully written but the author has an amazing capability to take you from one thought to another and then through a tangent, all with seamless transitions.

I felt like I was inside of her mind. View 1 comment. Aug 16, Felicity rated it it was amazing. Beautifully written book, really draws your thoughts to the impact our behaviour has had on the natural world around us and what we find truly important in life. Like others, this book was not entirely what I was expecting it to be. Rather than a wholly philosophical look at modern people's estrangement from nature, this book takes both a wider and more narrow view at the destructiveness of humankind over time. Alternatively this book focuses upon the whaling industry and the mining industry, with brief stopovers for the general way the use of oil has impacted the environment and is changing the Inuit people's way of life.

I say this view is narrow, for s Like others, this book was not entirely what I was expecting it to be. I say this view is narrow, for she focuses primarily by way of visiting various places and interviewing the people there; she digs deep into the histories of singular places and how they have been affected rather than focusing upon the whole. This book is deeper for it does delve into the past, and draws connections between lack of place and connection to nature and rising suicide rates in some places.

This is a beautiful book, poetically written and with the true heart of a Romantic at the center. There is beauty to be found in ruins, and confusion to be found in nostalgia. Nor is it just other species that are the victims of our rapacious knack for living. The word melancholy is significant.


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It is Challenger's belief that there are emotional responses to extinction, a kind of grief she characterises as nostalgia, and that such responses "might prove essential to fostering a more favourable approach to nature". Her starting place is a personal confession: that she is almost wholly ignorant of the natural world.

Shacked up in a cabin in west Penwith, she lacks the language to identify most of the plants and animals around her.


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  • In Richard Mabey's fine phrase, what she sees is little more than a "generalised green blur". While this impoverishment of knowledge is undoubtedly a common experience in our technologised century, it's by no means as universal as Challenger makes out, and her insistence that it's shared by her entire generation sits uneasily with the massive resurgence of interest in and writing about nature of the past decade.

    Her habit of categorising feelings of affection or pleasure in the non-human world as automatically nostalgic is likewise problematic, since it risks a kind of fetishising of nature as vulnerable and delicate, a way of thinking that Mabey himself has done much to challenge. Despite a barrage of classical sources, among them Aristotle, Darwin, Rousseau and Shelley, there's a strange absence of contemporary voices here. Among those who might have enriched and complicated Challenger's arguments are the ecofeminist theorists and Bruce Chatwin, who wrote about Tierra del Fuego in In Patagonia , and pondered lifelong questions of savagery, nature and culture.

    That said, Challenger is an exquisite writer.